Mining History Association

So, why is mining history important?

What do you like about mining history?

What, you are going to a mining history conference?
(Usually accompanied by “The Look” of complete puzzlement)


We asked our members how they answer when they get these questions or “The Look.” Their answers explain why they are involved in the Mining History Association.

Mining history is important because it is a core part of the history of the world, of the United States, and of the American West. Mining has been a key component of modern living while also forging a history that includes virtually all aspects of life from work to standard of living to class, race, gender, and environmental dynamics.

Metal production is the cornerstone of a sustainable and healthy economy. People need to understand that mining was the basis for expansion and development of our country. Towns, railroads, financial institutions, etc. were developed as a direct result of mining.

Mining history is fun, fascinating, and significant, because it was a major factor in the opening of the West.

Starting with Jamestown, Virginia, in 1606, immigrant settlers have sought gold and other minerals that would make their fortunes. The search for minerals drove western expansion in many areas – lead in Wisconsin and Missouri; gold in California and Colorado; iron in Minnesota and Michigan; Copper in Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, and Arizona; silver in Nevada and Idaho; etc. Mining and minerals are still the foundation of our standard of living.

Mining history records and interprets the recovery and usage of valuable and useful minerals that mankind has used to improve its standard of living.

History is important because it tells us about our past, which is important to understand the present and plan for the future. I grew up in Colorado. Mining was the reason it developed and some mining was still going on. Seeing these places fascinated me and was a reason to explore mine ruins from the gold and silver era, places like Central City, Cripple Creek, Aspen, and a lot of places in between. When I turned 16, I bought a Jeep and scoured the hills to find the old mine camps. Once you get the bug for looking at mining ruins, it grows on you and makes you want to know more about the history of these places.

If it can’t be grown or raised, it has to be mined. Therefore, in order to better understand and appreciate American history, mining must be understood, both the good and bad aspects. Not only that, it is fun to research and write about mining history because it covers so many aspects of our past – urban, industrial, immigration, labor, settlement, Indians, environment, politics, and so forth.

Mining history is important because most people in the so-called western world take for granted the material basis of their everyday lives. They never contemplate the complex systems of business, finance, technology, labor, and politics that bring them industrial goods like steel and consumer goods like smart phones, or the diverse places and people that have been affected by these systems. Mining history seeks to redress this imbalance, helping people to better understand vital ways that the industry providing coal, metals, and minerals has shaped our past.

There are only 3 basic activities required to sustain civilization: Agriculture (food and products); Manufacturing (refine and produce useful tools and machinery needed by an advancing society); and Mining (to find and extract the metals [and minerals] used in manufacturing, and the tools (plows, tractors, etc.) used in agriculture).

Mining history (and history, in general) is important to show us where we’ve been, so we can understand the present and plan for the future. What I like best are the people–the entrepreneurs, the swindlers, the day laborers, and those in-between. Put them in today’s surroundings, and they are exactly the same.

Few historic mining sites are located next to an Interstate. A visit usually gets you out of the fast lane and lets you appreciate the history and beauty of rural America and the pioneers that opened the continent.

It has to be animal, vegetable, or mineral. If that’s not important enough, what is?

The distinctive landscape of a historic mining site reminds us of the extraordinary human energy and ingenuity involved in the production of the essential raw materials of modern civilization. Mining history explores the hard, rough edges of a capitalist culture that once assumed individuals were solely responsible for their own well being. The contrast between a pristine nature preserve and a historic mining landscape is a constant reminder of how few such examples are left in the world and how both have shaped our lives. The gold rush is long gone and so will the evidence unless we do more to protect the hard places where it occurred.

History is inherently important. Mining is a basic part of human culture.

Any history of a fundamental industry is important. Too often it is realized – too late – that archival material is irretrievably disposed of. History doesn’t become out-of-date.

As a youngster, I was a rockhound. Old mines produced many a specimen. I gained an appreciation for the hardships faced by the early prospectors and miners. I started reading books about mining history and I was hooked.

We have made enough mistakes in the past – we don’t have to repeat them. History reminds us to look to the future!

Those who do not study history are destined to repeat it. Every item you use is made possible by mining.

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